AP Photo - Queensland Tourism

Something fishy? Election pork barrels dumped on the reef

THE Great Barrier Reef is shaping as a key election battleground for the major parties.

The Coalition, the ALP and the Australian Greens are splashing the cash, making substantial funding pledges for Australia's iconic natural wonder.

Before calling the election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Coalition would spend an extra $171 million on the reef over six years.

Not long after, the ALP pledged $500 million for research, environmental and management programs.

The Australian Greens have joined the fray today, saying they will spend $2 billion on fixing and maintaining the natural wonder that keeps about 69,000 people working in tourism and related industries.

Dead coral at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, captured by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey in May 2016.
Dead coral at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, captured by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey in May 2016.

James Cook University surveys show bleaching associated with high water temperatures has killed up to half of all corals in areas north of Cairns.

As well as rolling out the massive fix-it fund, Greens deputy leader Senator Larissa Waters said her party would impose a "legal cap" on run-off pollution, give the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority more power and take action on global warming.

"Our best scientists are telling us that we could lose the reef within a generation unless we take immediate action on global warming and fixing water quality," Ms Waters said.

"As slime is covering corals bleached dead by global warming, it's clear we need to transition to clean energy to save our Great Barrier Reef."
 

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce (left) answer questions during a doorstop at the Aus Sweetpotato Farm in the federal seat of Flynn in Gracemere, Thursday, May, 26, 2016. Mr Turnbull will pledge $150 million to get the ball rolling on several water projects in Queensland. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce (left) answer questions during a doorstop at the Aus Sweetpotato Farm in the federal seat of Flynn in Gracemere, Thursday, May, 26, 2016. Mr Turnbull will pledge $150 million to get the ball rolling on several water projects in Queensland. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING TRACEY NEARMY


Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Imogen Zethoven said the Greens appeared to be headed in the right direction but she had concerns about the ALP and Coalition pledges.

"The future of the reef has become a key election issue and every party, every candidate should be doing all they can to protect the reef from the multiple threats it faces, including coral bleaching, other impacts of climate change and poor water quality," Ms Zethoven said.

 "Both major parties have so far fallen far short of community expectations and what's needed to protect the reef - today's announcement by the Greens moves us closer to the mark.

"We see our reef under pressure from climate change, from acidification, from crown-of-thorns starfish - we see it under pressure from poor water quality."
 

A before and after image of coral bleaching and later dying in March / May 2016, at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, captured by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey.
A before and after image of coral bleaching and later dying in March / May 2016, at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, captured by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

Even global television star Ellen DeGeneres has waded into the fray, using her lead role in Disney Pixar's latest fishy offering to call on all Australians to dig deep for the reef.

"Hi Australia, it's me, Ellen DeGeneres," the Finding Dory actor says in a Remember The Reef campaign video.

"As you may know, I'm a big fan of your beautiful, great, wonderful Great Barrier Reef, which is home to my favourite fish, Dory.

"And as you may remember - but Dory probably doesn't - she's a blue tang and has many other amazing species that live in the reef with her.

"It's critical that we protect this amazing place and we'd like your help."

Disney, on its website, calls for donations to not-for-profit group Greenfleet, which would use the money to help restore ecosystems along the Queensland coast.

- ARM NEWSDESK



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